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A CurtainUp Review
The Other Josh Cohen

Like Charlie Brown,
I am the last one you pick.
Constantly scampering for
Footballs that i'll never kick
Broke and alone
And tonight of all nights.
Guess my philosophy was right.
Nothing good comes
Just from doing the proper thing.
— if the songs in The Other Josh Cohen had titles this might be called "Josh's Valentine's Day Lament."
The Other Josh Cohen
David Rossmer as Josh Cohen and Steve Rosen as Josh Cohen
(Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
When baseball manager Leo Durocher coined his famous "nice guys finish last" back in 1938 he wasn't thinking of nice nebbishes like Josh Cohen for whom Valentine's Day is the unhappiest day of the year. Nor was Rabbi Harold Kushner thinking of romantic miseries and cash flow problems when he addressed the question of When Bad Things Happen to Good People in his 1978 best seller. But the endearing little musical, The Other Josh Cohen, gives Durocher's baseball nice guys an everyman common twist. This show's title character, a decidedly unlook-alike doppelganger, also takes a more light-hearted approach to Rabbi Kushner's contemplation on the suffering and pain inflicted on even a nice mensch like Josh.

Besides disproving Durocher's idiom and leavening Kushner's serious theological ponderings, the show currently at the SoHo Playhouse serves the purpose of showcasing David Rossmer and Steve Rosen's talents as tunesmiths and performers. And so do its book, lyrics and music by Rosen and Rossmer, starring, you guessed it, Rossmer and Rosen — the former as Narrator and present day Josh and the latter the mustachioed year-ago Josh.

The dynamic Josh duo has enough show biz savvy (both have solid resumes that include Broadway musical credits) not to take stardom ambitions to the point of meglomania. Thus they've left the direction in the capable hands of Ted Sperling whose orchestrations for Light in the Piazza won Tony and Drama Desk awards. They're also sharing the stage with the terrific Kate Wetherhead to play a lot of the people who wander in and out of their story, as well as three additional shape shifters to play the other people when not tackling drums, keyboards and bass.

With a name like Cohen it's hardly surprising that much of the humor derives from Jewish shtick and that the other people include the stereotypical Jewish mother and father, and Jewish guilt driving the way Josh deals with an unanticipated and much needed financial windfall that's probably not intended for him. Not exactly the stuff of a ground-breaking book. The songs are catchy, with amusing easy rhyming lyrics, but not the sort of memorable hummers to stick in your ears long after you've left the theater.

Familiar stand-up routine-like as all this may sound, The Other Josh Cohen is a pleasant escape from real life worries about diminished job opportunities and incomes, not to mention world peace and climate change.

The set-up of having Rossmer and Rosen interact as the title character's present-day persona and the one whose bad luck took a dramatic turn for the worse and then another turn for a nice guys can finish first ending turns trite into terrific fun. Actually there's really another Josh who's heard but not seen and very much instrumental in the outcome of the two-in-one Josh's story.

Rossmer and Rosen delightfully kvetch, sing and dance their way through recollections of how Josh's dismal history with women and professional success is exacerbated by having his apartment broken into and leaving him without a single possession, except a Neal Diamond CD (and that not even the one with Diamond's diamonds!). The sudden reversal of fortune comes via a $56,000 check made out to Josh Cohen from an unknown Florida relative.

Much of the fun comes from the verve and versatility of the four other cast members who manage to make even the stock and potentially offensive use of Jewish stereotypes a laugh riot. Vadim Feichtner whose several characters include a hilarious voice mail greeting as Josh's dentist father, not also plays the keyboards but also serves as the show's music director. Kate Wetherhead, the only non instrument playing member of the ensemble, gets to play most of the people in the Josh saga. With a big assist from costume designer Dustin Cross, she often comes close to stealing the show.

The SoHo Playhouse isn't the most comfortable venue in town, but The Other Josh Cohen is another entry in quite a list of entertaining, highly recommended shows I've seen there.

The Other Joe Cohen by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen
Directed by Ted Sperling
Musical Staging by Andrew Palermo
Musical direction by Vadim Feichtner.
Cast: David Rossmer (Narrator Josh), Steve Rosen (Josh Cohen), Kate Wetherhead (A lot of People), Hannah Elless(A Bunch of Other People/Drums), Ken Triwush (The Rest of the People/Bass), Vadim Feichtner (A Bunch of People/Music Director/Keyboards)
Scenic Design:DaneLaffrey
Production Stage Manager:Janet Takami
Light Design:Jennifer Schriever
Costume Design:Dustin Cross
Sound Design:Josh Liebert
Running Time: 85 minutes withott an intermission
Amas Musical Theatre and Scandobean Productions at SoHo Playhouse 15 Vandam Street.
From 10/10/12; opening 10/21/12; closing 11/11/12
Wednesday- Friday at 8PM; Saturday at 3PM & 8PM; Sunday at 2PM & 5PM.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer 10/25/12
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